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Lessons from the Parenthesis:
Navigating Frustration and Finding Clarity in Fitness

There I was in the middle of a reading circle, teacher annoyed and me flustered. I am hazy on all the details, but this was the scene of one of the most uncomfortable situations I can remember and trust me, I have been in quite a few. Here’s how we got to the above point in time.

First, let’s get one thing straight. I was not a very bright kid. Common sense wasn’t all that common for me. Now that we have that established – let’s get to the story. In my early school days around 2nd grade (again, hazy on the details), my teacher was trying to explain to us about reading around parenthesis. “Alright students, when you get to the parenthesis, you do not have to READ the parenthesis, you can skip past them,” is what I imagine she probably said. The teacher got us in the dreaded reading circle. You know the one. the one where no one follows the story being read because they are too busy figuring out which paragraph they will have to read and then reading it over and over again until they feel they have it down yeah, that one. It came to be my turn and of course there were parentheses in my paragraph. 

Now, what I thought the teacher meant as she explained the parenthesis principle to us, was that I do NOT have to read, “The man, open parenthesis, with the flip-flops, close parenthesis, ran to the beach.” (this was not the sentence, but that was almost 30 years ago, so I don’t remember the exact sentence). What she really meant was that I can skip the parenthesis and everything inside of it, so I didn’t have to read “with the flip-flops” either. I didn’t catch on to that part. 

I began to read, “the man, with the flip-flops, ran to the beach.” Nailed it! However, the teacher still stopped me. “Now Nate, remember we don’t have to read the parenthesis.” I went back to the beginning of the paragraph confused, but ready to give it another go. “The man with the flip-flo—.” Again the teacher interrupts a little more sternly, “No, Nate you don’t have to read the parenthesis.” I could feel the warmth of blood crawl to my head – my anxiety increasing. What is this lady talking about!? Has she been hittin’ the bottle this morning already? I know that time I did not read parenthesis. Panic mode! 

Not able to think clearly from the amount of anxiety built up in my brain, I read it again, “the man with the flip—.” This time the whole class burst out, “No!!” My heart now racing a million beats per minute. I looked to the teacher for an answer, but she, thinking I was being a smart ass, was just glaring at me with annoyance written all over her face. All of a sudden one of my classmates reached over to my book, covered the entire portion of what I should not be reading with her finger and she said, “here just read around my finger.” Finally, I got it. I finished my paragraph and sat in the circle trying to make myself invisible.

There are a lot of lessons to take from this unfortunate situation. 1. This is one of the only memories I have before 3rd grade, so I should probably see a therapist. 2. All those times my parents told me how smart I was, they were clearly lying – my parents are liars. 3. The most important lesson is, a lot of times we are too “in the weeds” with our goals.

When frustration and anxiety set in, it’s hard to see the simple changes right in front of us. Our misunderstanding can make it difficult to  see the big picture.

This is where having a coach can make a big difference. Luckily, for me, I had my classmate next to me who could see what I was having a hard time with and provided a solution to my problem. The same can be said with fitness. A lot of times we THINK we know what we are supposed to do, but really we’re not seeing the whole picture. Our fitness goals are often fueled by emotion, and the first thing to go when we are emotional is logic. A coach is able to act as our logic when we’re feeling confused, exhausted, or just ready to give up. It never hurts to have an expert set of eyes to guide you to logic and give you the facts. We all need a little help sometimes. That’s how we get better. 

So find yourself a good coach! Hopefully they aren’t 8 years old.